Tag Archives: parking

Back in Angled Parking Experiment Now in Progress

Mark Chase of Livable Streets short a simple video documenting the changes on Bow Street before and after the installation of the new back-in angled parking. The goal was to make the road safer for cyclists and pedestrians, as well as to increase available on-street parking.

Opinion piece from Charlie Denison of the Somerville Bike Committee in the Somerville Patch.

How do you think it’s going?

Meet the Parklet

Special article by Alexandra Reisman for Union Square Main Streets

Parklets, quite simply, are very tiny parks with seating. They often provide outdoor space for nearby cafés and restaurants, bike racks, planters, and other amenities. This kind of small-scale project has successfully enhanced public space in other communities and could prove beneficial for Union Square too. Behold:

A parklet in San Francisco’s Noe Valley. 

The first parklet in Southern California opened very recently on Long Beach’s Retro Row.
Philadelphia’s first parklet, opened in 2011 in the University City neighborhood. Movable furniture and other materials make it so that parklets can be installed first as a temporary trial or only on a seasonal basis.

These cozy, inviting pedestrian niches have been carved out of car parking space—typically one parklet equals two former parallel parking spaces. The annexation of parking space makes the parklet a thrill and a novelty for many. What was previously an unmemorable slot for a car (usually hosting just one or two shoppers) may now be a lively common space for many neighborhood residents and patrons. So, though it’s actually a relatively minor intervention, the parklet symbolizes a much larger movement in which cities aim to be more walkable and pedestrian-friendly, and therefore less car-oriented.

 San Francisco has led the parklet movement since 2009. This is its first parklet outside the Mojo Café on Divisadero Street, originally a 6-month pilot project. The café provides daily maintenance for the parklet, though seating and bike parking is open to the public.


San Francisco’s second parklet. 






Of course, removing car parking in a business district, for any purpose, always raises at least a few eyebrows and often invites criticism. After all, car parking is important for accommodating patrons from other parts of the city or the suburbs. This is especially so in Union Square, which is increasingly a destination for people from outside of the neighborhood and, though fairly well served by buses, still awaits the Green Line.

Yet, for the price of a few lost parking spaces, a well-placed parklet can do a lot of good. By providing seating, some pleasant greenery amid the urban grey, and a semi-protected space, it becomes an “outdoor room,” not merely an extension of the sidewalk. It invites people to linger, making a whole block more convivial. And its location on the street encourages cars to slow down, making the area feel safer and more comfortable to pedestrians.

This one’s neat: another San Francisco parklet. 

Conviviality and walkability benefit businesses by making the whole business district a more desirable place to be. As the urban scholar William Whyte meticulously observed, “People tend to sit most where there are places to sit,” and, relatedly, “What attracts people most, it would appear, is other people.” And because people want to be where they not only can rest, but also where they feel safe and welcome, the design and placement of a parklet are vital for its success. A parking space that has been merely cordoned off wouldn’t, by itself, do the trick, but it does provide 120 square feet of newly usable public space that can be developed in myriad ways.

Check out some photos from international PARK(ing) Day for examples of some of the versatile ways people are using parking space. On this day people feed parking meters to reserve the spaces for non-car uses like lawn games, yoga, or a mini café.

This past fall the parking space on Bow Street in front of Bloc 11 cafe was reclaimed for a large bicycle rack and reception was positive.  We’re anticipating the bike rack to return this spring.  Maybe we can do something even more ambitious this summer with a full on parklet.

Where in Union Square do you think a parklet would work best? What amenities would you like to see?

Want to learn more?

An article about “the most adorable urban space to come along in a long time.”

San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks initiative

PARK(ing) Day

A classic in the field of study on how people use public space, William Whyte’s “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces”


Parking Just Got Easier

The City of Somerville just launched a new website for the Traffic and Parking department.  Now you can get detailed information on city regulations, lots of details on types of permits and how to get them, and even request a hearing on-line when you might be unlucky enough as to find a ticket on your windshield.

The site also gives some background on the city’s Complete Streets effort.  The Traffic and Parking department doesn’t just car about vehicles.  They’re working to make Somerville accessible and safe for everyone including pedestrians and cyclists.  From traffic calming and crosswalks, to bike routes and lanes, the goal is for everyone to get where they’re going in a way that’s safe and healthy.

Taking Parking to a Whole Other Level

In the new Union Square zoning there’s provisions that in the future will rid us of the surface parking lots that create waste lands of tarmac and it disallows the wide and frequent breaks in the streetscape for driveways.  The structured parking required to accommodate the cars that by necessity are still part of operating in their world will need to  screen us from its purpose,  well disguising its parking structure character.  It seems we’re wanting to treat our parking like Disney World treats its trash — something decidedly unpleasant and needing to hide it well from any view.

In Miami however, at 1111 Lincoln, there a  parking garage that celebrates its nature, and in its transparent boldness, becoming something beautiful and decidedly upscale.  The structure brings together the commercial with shopping and dining as well as residential, and shamelessly declares, yes, there’s parking too.  The upper level, with sweeping views of the Miami skyline, is fully kitted out with high end kitchen and audio to create an awesome event.  It’s become a key place apparently in Miami for wedding and corporate events.

Read in Icon about the design of 1111 Lincoln.  Or visit the snazziest website you’ve ever seen devoted to a parking garage.